Ohio Gov. John Kasich has enjoyed a challenge-free climate on his lackluster production of jobs from a state media largely afraid to take him on, risking to be cut off from what little access he gives them now. John Kasich doesn’t hold press conferences in his home state, instead he makes isolated appearances on Fox News, where he once worked and could conceivably do so again when he leaves office in two years, or selected national shows in need of sideshow politicos to fill air time.
After literally years of underperforming the national job creation average, while other states run circles around the Buckeye State, Gov. Kasich took the bait back in 2014 when he signed a bill that set in motion a “reset” of commonsense, nation-leading alternative energy portfolio standards established through bi-partisan legislation executed in 2008 under former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
As recently as last week, the latest version of a bill designed to change Ohio’s standards on renewable energy and energy efficiency was taking heat as its fate rests on what Ohio’s ultra-Republican legislature decides to do with it, if anything, between now and the end of the year. The bill in question, SB 320, is designed to rejigger a two-year freeze on the energy standards Gov. Kasich signed into law that benefit industry giants like First Energy and AEP. If the bill does pass in its current form, utilities will have a much easier time meeting the new standard and could lead to fewer energy-saving programs for consumers.
John Kasich killed a bi-partisan agreement signed into law by Gov. Strickland that made Ohio a leader among states. Playing coy is basic Kasich, so when a spokesman for the governor waffled on whether the governor would veto the current Senate bill or a similar one in the House, it was standard practice.
“The governor has been clear regarding the need to work with the General Assembly to craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state’s economy,” Emmalee Kalmbach said.
Critics of the bill representing environmental advocates and businesses that make components for wind and solar power argue SB 320 allows utilities to escape penalties for failing to meet renewable energy standards until 2020, making standards optional from 2017 to 2019, when Kasich will be gone from governor.
Kasich could rightfully be blame for but probably won’t take any heat for the loss of jobs announced Thursday by the biggest U.S. manufacturer of solar panels that announced it will stop production at its only North American plant in Ohio. The AP reports that First Solar Inc. is looking to retool operations in order to make more efficient solar panels as markets tighten. It’s unknown how many of the company’s 1,600 jobs worldwide will be lost at its plant near Toledo that employs about 1,400 workers. First Solar Chief Executive Officer Mark Widmar says the Ohio plant has higher production costs, but says it will remain its center of innovation.
Unlike Gov. Kasich and his friendly Republican legislature, statehouse Democrats have high regard for wind and solar energy jobs. Minority Democrats in the state Legislature say removing the freeze on Ohio’s renewable energy mandates is among their priorities as this year’s session winds down. Elected again to lead House Democrats, Minority Leader Fred Strahorn of Dayton said that Ohio needs to move forward on the standards, the AP reported. Michael Premo, chief of staff for the Senate Democrats, says his caucus also wants the freeze lifted.
When he ran for president, Gov. Kasich tried to be vague enough on the issue of climate change to not disaffect base Republicans who think, like Donald Trump, that climate change is a hoax, while confusing others, especially independent thinkers that man contributes to it, that he’s not a total anti-climate change loon.
“I do believe we contribute to climate change,” Kasich said earlier this year in March, according to The Huffington Post. “We want all the sources of energy. We want to dig coal but we want to clean it when we burn it. We believe in natural gas, we believe in nuclear power, and you know what else I believe in? I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency, renewables.” After saying his talking point on climate change, he then backtracks, saying he doesn’t know “how much individuals affect the climate.”
Ohio’s now-you-hear-him-say-one-thing-then-the-opposite governor has made clear his opposition to most policies that attack carbon pollution and encourage wind and solar over dirtier sources. On the presidential stump, Mr. Kasich promised he’d “freeze all federal regulations for one year except for health and safety.” He considers the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate and health regulations as among the first that need to go if he got the chance to dismantle Washington. In the meantime, he’s a critic of the international climate agreement the world signed-on to last December.
Mr. Kasich criticized Ted Strickland for letting NCR slip out of Dayton to Georgia, saying he’d be sitting on the CEO’s car hood. Kasich’s new redoubt is actions speak louder than words. Don’t hold your breath that the petulant one will be sitting on First Solar CEO Mark Widmar’s car hood anytime soon.